Portugal Legalises Euthanasia After Prolonged Controversy

Portugal Legalises Euthanasia
After Prolonged Controversy

Portugal’s pro-euthanasia change in policy, and different positions
on assisted-suicide

News Published 2023.07.24 | Clair Park

(Photo=The Guardian Antonio Cotrim/EPA)

On May 12th of 2023, the Portuguese parliament concluded its prolonged discourse with the legalization of euthanasia - also known as mercy killing and assisted suicide. The decision permitted medical institutions the ability to assist and alleviate patients during their passing.

This development in judicial process was especially meaningful as Portugal is a highly religious nation with approximately 81% of the populace being Christian. The debate between valuing an individual’s quality of life over to sanctity of life seems to continually persist. 


According to socialist MP Isabel Moreira, who is an ardent supporter of euthanasia,  “We are confirming a law that has already been approved several times by a huge majority.” However, President Rebelo de Sousa, a devout Christian, had “vetoed earlier bills due to excessively undefined concepts”. She also claimed the condition’s terminology to be “contradictory and needed to be clarified. ” 

Their final decision was to authorize euthanasia only in cases where “medically assisted suicide is impossible due to a physical disability of the patient. ”

Paulo Santos, a member of the activist group Right To Die With Dignity, claims though “the adoption of this law has been relatively fast compared with other big countries,” numerous cases of objections by doctors due to moral obligations would appear. 

(Photo=Live Law)

Only a handful of countries have allowed the legalization of euthanasia such as Belgium, Spain, Canada, Colombia, New Zealand, and more. Most individuals and countries still believe intentionally ending a person’s life, regardless of one’s reasons, is an ethical and religious violation. Some also claim there might be a slippery slope effect, which could lead to the abuse of the practice. The actor of this practice was also targetted as doctors or physicians are healers, making this responsibility intrinsically incompatible.  

On the other hand, pro-euthanasia people argue the practice to be a compassionate and humane option during acute pain and illness, especially when ths disease is terminal. This also, in a way, gives dignity to the patient as prolonged illness comes with degration and loss of independence. The patient’s autonomy also comes into play as pro-euthanasians believe one should have the right to control their own lives, which includes how one dies. Ultimately, euthanasia is viewed as principle respecting ones right to ones self. 


Though there are a multitude of sides to this controversy, both sides question what makes life valueable. They question how much control one should have over oneself, and whether this is morally right. Not many countries have legalized euthanasia to the extent that we can perceive its long-term effects, but our beliefs should take into account the patient’s condition, as they are most likely to live our decision. 

#Portugal #Euthanasia #Mercy-Killing #Assisted-Suicide #Parliament #Autonomy

Clair Park (c2park2025@chadwickschool.org)